Auckland – the city of sails. And traffic. Forget the weather, it’s Auckland traffic that gets talked about (well, complained about). It’s also something fellow Kiwis like to remind us of.
Auckland drivers will be familiar with being on the motorway, coming to a stand-still, followed by a stretch of snail pace driving. We often put it down to a possible accident or roadworks. Or maybe just too many cars entering this stretch of outdated motorway.
More often than not, this is actually a ‘phantom traffic jam’ it’s been revealed. A phantom traffic jam begins when a car in heavy traffic slows down slightly, causing the car behind to slow down slightly more. The process is repeated and magnified as it spreads back through the line of traffic. Eventually the cars far behind are forced to stop completely. A phantom which has been present in Auckland traffic for years!
Computer science professor Dr Horn has been studying phantom traffic jams for years. The expert says the removal of tailgating is the solution. By spacing out cars evenly in a stream of traffic, the space in between prevents the slow-down effect in distant cars when braking.
So, what can be done to solve Auckland traffic?
Luckily, we don’t always have to rely on a bunch of strangers to avoid tailgating to reap the rewards of this knowledge. Many new cars have the technology to make it happen. It is adaptive cruise control (ACC), which uses sensors to maintain a constant distance to the car in front. The technology is a form of autonomous vehicle technology used in self-driving cars.
A surprising number of newer, less expensive cars already in New Zealand have the technology. This includes some of the Suzuki Swift models, and Subaru, Ford, Mazda, Volvo, and BMW. But whether our cars have the technology or not, we can all do our bit to avoid phantom traffic jams by avoiding tailgating!
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